Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Book Review: Together on God's Mission: How Southern Baptists Cooperate to Fulfill the Great Commission

D. Scott Hildreth, Together on God's Mission: How Southern Baptists Cooperate to Fulfill the Great Commission, (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2018), 112 pp.

To those outside the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Program is probably not a household name, but it is the financial lifeblood of missions in the Southern Baptist Convention. For those not familiar, the Cooperative Program was launched in 1925, and is a unified plan of giving through which cooperating SBC churches give a percentage of their undesignated funds in order to support their respective state convention and the ministries and missions programs of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Over the past years there has been a steady and significant decline in SBC Cooperative Program participation. Many have begun to question the mission of the program, and in this book Dr. Hildreth not only give a history of the SBC and the Cooperative Program, he presents the importance of Southern Baptists coming together to re-kindle the power of this amazing program, and shows what all will be lost if we Southern Baptists let this program fade away.

These are exciting times for the SBC. While I am personally historically minded and thankful for the many great men who have been part of our convention in the past—especially those of a generation (many of which who are still alive) who fought to bring our convention back from theological liberalism back to the Bible in the mid 20th Century—I am also especially thankful for a new generation of leaders rising up in the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC is a diverse group of churches, and unlike some other denominations we have far more theological diversity, and there have been theological disagreements within the SBC since it's inception in 1845, however, despite this, for the most part the SBC (both "traditionalists" and Calvinists) always maintained unity and cooperation for the overall mission of taking the gospel to lost people and advancing the Kingdom of King Jesus. Dr. Hildreth points out that "it is naive to believe a body as large as the Southern Baptist Convention will be able to settle a debate that has been raging for hundreds of years. While theological convictions are indeed necessary, it is important for Southern Baptists to seek unity under out common statement of faith and around our common cooperative vision." Often these "theological debates" are about generational power rather than purely on theological issues, and one of the primary things that Dr. Hildreth suggests is that we should discuss cooperation theologically rather than structurally or pragmatically. Moreover, some churches have viewed the Cooperative Program as a "tax" rather than a means of cooperation and Dr. Hildreth argues that we must strive to view the CP as a positive means for advancing the Kingdom.

This book is a great resource for getting your head around the Cooperative Program and understanding what challenges are faced currently, and what opportunities there are for growth and expansion in coming years if we Southern Baptists can get our act together and work together.

The history of the SBC is built on cooperation, and we must—if we want to continue to reach people for King Jesus—continue to cooperate and take advantage of unique opportunities to work together to take the gospel to the nations.

We are called to be a light to the nations, and there is no better way than by working together in unity to fulfill God's Mission!

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Tools for writing and reading.

Most everything I write begins life as ink on paper. While I don't write out entire drafts of long research papers long-hand, I do take notes and make outlines by hand. Although I experimented with one class, for one semester, I never take notes in class electronically. It's always with pen and paper. For me, whether I am reading, preparing a paper or essay, or taking notes in class, there is a connection with having a pen or pencil in my hand and my ability to think more clearly.

If I were reading a book and found myself without any sort of marking tool, I would likely end up re-reading that section because I simply will not retain information in the same way. I can read quite quickly, and perhaps the process of marking slows me down; but I believe it's more about the fact I'm actively interacting with the author through my marks. I have a system of little marginalia I use to indicate what's on my mind. I can revisit a book much later and once I see my annotations, I'm right back where I left off.

In class, I'm often asked by classmates about my pens, so I thought I would share not only about my pens, but also about pencils, paper and my beloved reading ruler.

Fountain Pens and Ink

It's safe to say, at this point, pens are more than a tool for me; they are a hobby. I have quite a few fountain pens, I use all of them often. Below, I will list some of my favorites from inexpensive to more expensive. 

I have linked to the nibs and colors I own for each of these, however many of these are available in many nibs and colors. All links except for the Nemosine Neutrino go to Goulet Pens which is a family owned business and is where I purchase as much of my pens, paper, and ink as possible. I want to note I am not affiliated with them in any way. I've just always been happy with my service from them, and I love supporting small businesses where I can. With each pen, I also share the ink I normally use in that particular pen.

Platinum Preppy: ($3.95) I actually do not own this pen, but I have given them as gifts. They are a great entry point into a refillable fountain pen. Although a pack of two replacement cartridges cost nearly as much as the pen, Goulet offers these with an "eyedropper mod" allowing you to use bottled ink and an eyedropper to refill these making it even more economical!

Pilot Metropolitan: ($15) For most people, either this or a Lamy Safari (mentioned below) is where I suggest to start. They are both great pens, and it really comes down to a matter of style preference. I have a Pilot Metropolitan that originally came with a Fine Nib, but I swapped it out with a Stub Nib later. I normally keep my Metropolitan inked with Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-Guri ink which is a dark brown ink that looks great on cream colored paper like what is in some journals.

Nemosine Neutrino: ($24.99) Nemosine pens are a great value, and there is a cheaper option also, the Singularity which has a plastic body and different shape. I'm more hesitant to recommend or gift these as I have had two. One was a total lemon, and I sent it back to the manufacturer who sent me a "hand picked" replacement. I have heard many others say they like these pens and have had good results, but I would recommend buying from somewhere you have the opportunity to return if you are not happy with it, and better yet once you've used a Pilot Metropolitan or Lamy Safari for a while and have some fountain pen basics under your belt. This way you'll be able to tell if something is off with the the pen. I'd hate for a poor performing pen to turn you off to the wonderful experience of writing with a fountain pen! I keep my Neutrino at work (so, it didn't make the photo-op below), and it's usually inked with Diamine Emerald Green which looks and behaves pretty well on the cheap green Steno pads we have around the office.

TWISBI ECO: ($28.99) This pen is one of my favorite pens. Unlike the previous pens which are inked either with a replaceable cartridge or from a bottle using a cartridge converter, this pen is what is known as a piston filler. It has a knob that is twisted on the end of the pen that works a piston which is used to fill the entire body of the pen with ink. This pen has a very large ink capacity and is a pen I often take to class with me for note taking. I keep this pen filled with Diamine Sherwood Green which is a darker green than the Emerald Green mentioned above.

Lamy Al-Star: ($37.60 or the Safari is the same pen in plastic for $29.60): The Lamy Al-Star and Lamy Safari are twins, except for the material. The Al-Star is aluminum and the Safari is plastic. I have an Al-Star but have gifted Safari's before. Mine is an extra-fine nib, and I like to use it on cheaper paper where a broader nib might feather or bleed through, or if I need to write really small. I usually keep this one inked with the Diamine Sherwood Green mentioned above.

Pelikan M205: ($132) This pen is my absolute favorite pen, and will likely remain in that spot until I can afford a gold-nibbed Pelikan (like a M600 or M800). Pelikan pens are very smooth, wet writers that are made impeccably well. Like the TWSBI ECO mentioned above, this one is also a piston filled pen, and has a large ink capacity. I keep this inked with Pelikan Edelstein Topaz ink which is a bright, blue ink.

Pilot Falcon: ($152) This pen is my second favorite, and is in a near tie with the Pelikan, but I just like the Pelikan just a little bit better; I can't help it. What makes this pen extra-special is the nib. The nib has a little flex to it which enables some variation in the size of the line, so generally upstrokes are a bit thinner than downstrokes. Now, vintage fountain pens, such as a Waterman 52, had very soft flexible nibs and an amazing amount of line variation. This pen is just a bit softer than a regular nib, but is a fun pen to write with, and if you write slowly and take your time, you can create very beautiful writing with this pen. However, if you write normally with it, it writes like any other pen. I keep this one inked with Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-Kai which is a nice professional blue-black ink.

Pencils and Ruler

I generally do not write with pencils very often, but I almost always read with a pencil. I find that fountain pens and the cheap paper in most books do not get along, and I have heard that graphite archives very well. I'm not super picky about pencils, but I generally like Mitsubishi HB Pencils

I am also a stickler for neat, straight lines in my books when I'm underscoring words or sentences, and I could not function without my handy-dandy flexible blue ruler. I couldn't find a brand on mine (I've had it a very long time) but I suppose these would be similar in function. It's made of a thick flexible plastic that allows it to flex and conform to curves in books.

Notebooks and Paper

When using fountain pens, paper becomes more important. Cheaper paper does not always handle fountain pen ink well. I've had okay success with normal Mead spiral bound notebooks in the past, but I finally decided to start exploring better paper options. I found an affordable line of notebooks by Apica and sold by Goulet. They offer a few sizes, but I have some that are 5.83" X 8.27" and some larger ones that are 7.05" X 9.92". They are very affordable for the paper quality and amount of sheets. They aren't perforated, however. I am also trying out a Clairefontaine Basic Clothbound Notebook for journaling. If I want nice paper with a perforated edge (to write a note on, for example) I use a Rhodia No. 16 Notepad. Rhodia paper is my favorite, however I simply can't justify it for everyday note-taking in class.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Bible Review: ESV Study Bible, Personal Size, Natural Leather

I just received a copy of the ESV Study Bible, Personal Size, Natural Leather, Brown. I was curious about this Bible when I first saw it was going to be released, so I was happy to be able to get a review copy to check out.

If you have ever seen the ESV Journaling Bible with the "natural" leather and the flap that comes around and ties, that is exactly the kind of leather on this Bible.

The leather is nice, but rugged. One quibble I have is that I wish there were a tad more yapp (or overhang) as it seems pretty flush with the text block. Also, I wish the ribbon were about 1/2-3/4" longer. Because of the thickness of the text block, it feels just a tad unbalanced with cover edges that are so tight against the text block.

The page edges are plain white with no gold gilting. This is a trade-off as some think the gold gives protection, but in reality it usually just gets scratched up and ugly on Bibles which you might use a lot/throw in your bag, etc. However, on this Bible, the text block is quite thick, and (especially when I first saw it) because if the proportions, the white page edges are a bit 'shocking' (I've tried to think of a better word, but that's all I can do). The thickness makes them look especially white, and if they get dirty, they are going to look especially dirty, I'm afraid.

The binding is sewn and lays flat absolutely anywhere. Not one hint of over-tightness (and that's good as this is a fairly thick text block).

While this is a smaller footprint than the "full-size" ESV Study Bible, it's still a chunky book, so be aware of that. However, it is very portable and sits in my hand quite nicely (and I don't have overly large hands).

If you want a portable copy of the ESV Study Bible you can carry around and will hold up to sustained heavy use, I think this is your ticket.

From a durability standpoint I highly recommend this copy, as I think it will stand up very well to heavy, day-to-day usage. From an aesthetic standpoint, that will be more of an issue of if this is within your style or taste.

Finally, one last thing to mention, is I discovered in this Bible there is a new edition of the ESV text. This is a 2016 "Permanent Text Edition". You can find more information here, however the gist is that the ESV translation committee has 52 word changes, some minor addition of some quotation marks, and have stated that this will be the ESV text for the foreseeable future. This made me very happy.

Finally here are some photos so you can check this Bible out for yourself.

*Disclaimer I received my copy gratis from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated above are my own honest opinions and I was not required to give a positive review. Thanks!

Monday, August 31, 2015

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible: A Review

I have more than a few Study Bibles. Looking over at my bookshelf I see the following:

  • ESV Study Bible
  • HCSB Study Bible
  • NIV Study Bible (The older one from 2008)
  • New Geneva Study Bible (which later became the Reformation Study Bible)
  • Life Application Study Bible
  • TNIV Study Bible
  • The New Oxford Annotated Bible

Moreover, in addition to these, I have electronic copies of the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible, the ESV Global Study Bible and the MacArthur Study Bible.

Even with all of these wonderful Study Bibles on my shelf I have been eagerly anticipating this new NIV Zondervan Study Bible from the time I first heard about it back in February on Andy Naselli's blog.

A fantastic and diverse team of scholars came together to produce this wonderful resource. D. A. Carson serves as general editor, Desi Alexander, Rick Hess and Doug Moo are the associate editors, and Andy Naselli is the assistant editor.

Listen as D. A. Carson gives an overview of this new Study Bible in the following video:

This study Bible is not merely an update of the old NIV Study Bible (which will stay in print), but has completely fresh content from more than 60 of the worlds finest Biblical scholars. Not only did D. A. Carson serve as general editor, he contributed the notes (co-authored by Andy Naselli) for John, and in addition to serving as associate editor, Doug Moo provided notes for Romans, James, 2 Peter and Jude (2 Peter and Jude co-authored again by Andy Naselli). Great essays have been provided by Jim Hamilton, Kevin DeYoung, Sam Storms, Moisés Silva, Tim Keller and Andreas Köstenberger (just to name a few). A full list of contributors can be found here, and here is a video giving an overview of the team of scholars behind this new study Bible:

Why another Study Bible? 

All of the study Bibles I listed above are outstanding resources. I use them each often. They each bring something unique to the table, and the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is no exception. While many study Bibles focus on Systematic Theology (The ESV Study Bible being an excellent example of a study Bible in this format), the NIV Zondervan Study Bible focuses on Biblical Theology.

Here is a brief video explaining the Biblical Theology approach:

At 2,880 pages and nearly 5 pounds this Bible is an impressive and comprehensive work. There are countless maps, charts, illustrations and photos which bring the world of the Bible into your hands. Together with the other faithful study Bibles on the market, the church is blessed with resources that provide a wealth of knowledge and insight. Also, be sure to check out this page for plenty of resources and samples.

Finally, I know some readers of my blog might not prefer the NIV translation. In fact, some people might intensely dislike the NIV. However, I think we should stop and thank God that we have so many faithful translations of the Bible in our native English language. Just like with study Bibles, each faithful translation of the Biblical text brings something unique to the table. To faithfully exegete a text, several translations should always be consulted (especially if one is not proficient in the source languages). Good Bible translations are helpful resources. It's both-and, not either-or. Along with the KJV, NASB, ESV, and HCSB, the 2011 NIV is a translation I have read from Genesis to Revelation. My only real quibble is "assume authority" in 1 Timothy 2:12, but I have heard and read Doug Moo's explanation of that translation and I respect his view (and he is an complementarian). My thinline NIV is one that regularly makes its way into my backpack. I read from many translations regularly, and I tend to rotate the Bible I carry with me to classes, often to have a different translation than what my professor might be reading from aloud.

This is a fantastic resource that will serve any believer well no matter your preferred translation. I heartily recommend this study Bible to any Christian, and I am thankful for all of the contributors who made this study Bible a reality.

Note: I was provided a copy of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible free of charge for review purposes with no expectation of a favorable review. The opinions expressed above are my own.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book Review: Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy.

The following partially satisfies the requirements for Dr. Grant Taylor's New Testament Survey class at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010. 295 pp. Reviewed by Jayson L. Rowe.

Dr. Charles E. Hill received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University and is currently Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Hill has extensive research interests in the Johannine Corpus, and has written extensively on several issues relating to the early church fathers, early Christian views on the end times, the canon of the New Testament, and the traditions of New Testament manuscripts. In addition to the work being reviewed here, he is the author of several books on the New Testament and Early Church including Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Future Hope in Early Christianity, The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church and most recently The Early Text of the New Testament published in 2012 and co-edited with fellow RTS professor Michael J. Kruger.

In this work Hill presents his perspective on how and when the four-Gospel collection in the New Testament canon was formed. He writes in response to those who say the fourfold Gospel that became the canonical standard was only accepted as such at a later date. Moreover, these same scholars claim that the four canonical Gospels were simply four out of many Gospel accounts that were circulating during the time of the early church. Hill critically examines the scholarship that has been used to support and promote the popular narrative of how the church ended up with only four Gospels and also looks at the evidence more liberal scholars use to make their cases. Hill tests the major arguments from these scholars against the physical and historical evidence and also examines the writings of Irenaus, Clement of Rome, Papias and other historical figures to see how the Gospels were viewed in their day. Ultimately, Hill will be seeking the answer to the question: ‘Who chose the Gospels?’

In the introduction, Hill begins by quoting William Petersen, who claims that there was a “sea of multiple Gospels,” and also said that these “gospels were breeding like rabbits” (Hill, Who Chose the Gospels, p. 2). At the beginning of Chapter 1, Hill shows that Petersen was exaggerating a bit when he portrayed the number of Gospels, by showing that Petersen’s own research shows that the list of Gospels includes just nine other Gospels which might have sought to compete with the four (Hill, p. 7).

Next, Hill gives a detailed explanation of the papyrus discoveries and explains that the statistics of these discoveries are impartial. He points out how writers of the period could be accused of skewing numbers in favor of the four canonical Gospels, but shows that by looking at the random and impartial numbers of the papyri discoveries, it is clear that the canonical Gospels still outnumbered the non-canonical ones by about three to one (Hill, p. 21). Hill also explains that many of these discoveries are in Alexandria, in Egypt, which at the time was an area where many heretical forms of Christianity dominated. If there were any place where one would expect to find a high concentration of heterodox or non-canonical texts it would be Egypt. Remarkably, this is not the case and Hill shows that the non-canonical Gospels were still around a third as popular as the four canonical Gospels (Hill, pp. 24-25).

Hill then explains how Christians adopted the much less common codex for sacred writings very early on, and explains that all of the earliest known copies of the four canonical Gospels are found in codex form (Hill, p. 26). In addition, Hill demonstrates that out of the non-canonical Gospels found in codex form, they are all smaller, more compact codices while “most of the early papyrus copies of the canonical Gospels are from codices which were suitable for the purpose of public reading in churches, none of our surviving copies of the Gospel of Peter or the Gospel of Mary was” (Hill, p. 31).

Chapters 2 and 3 are devoted to defending Irenaeus. Hill’s argument is that, “by the time Irenaeus wrote around 180 AD, the fourfold Gospel was very well established” (Hill, p. 37). Hill contends that Irenaeus was not a pioneer of Gospel selection, but was simply following a tradition that had already been established since other writers of the second and third centuries, such as Hippolytus, Dionysius, Tertullian and others, also viewed only the four canonical Gospels as authoritative Scripture. Hill points out that a popular view with modern scholars is that “like an axe-happy frontiersman of bygone days, blind to ecological realities, Irenaeus destroyed a perfectly good stand of gospel trees in order to create his four-Gospel canon” (Hill, p. 42). In response to allegations that Irenaeus instructed Christians to destroy copies of the other Gospels, Hill asserts that neither Irenaeus’s church in Lyons nor the church in Rome “had anything resembling the kind of imperial power…to search out private copies of a detested book, seize them and destroy them” (Hill, p. 62).

Chapter 4 begins by stating, “if a four-Gospel canon was Irenaeus’s idea…it was an idea which caught on quickly” (Hill, p. 69). The use of the canonical Gospels is compared to the non-canonical Gospels in the writings of Clement of Alexandria. Hill reports that of the canonical Gospels, Clement refers to Matthew 757 times, Luke 402 times, John 331 times and Mark 182 times. The most referenced non-canonical Gospel is the Gospel of the Egyptians, which is only referenced 8 times. Referenced 3 times each are the Gospel to the Hebrews and the Traditions of Matthias. Furthermore, in the writings of Clement, there are no references to the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Egerton Gospel, the Gospel of Judas, or the Gospel of Mary. Also, in the early to mid 190s, Clement refers to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as ‘the four Gospels that have been handed down to us’ in his treatise entitled Stromateis. The point made here is that by referring to only these four Gospels as being ‘handed down’ Clement sounds very much like Irenaeus who also spoke of the Gospels as being handed down from the apostles (Hill, pp. 72-73).

Next is a discussion of the writings of Serapion, the bishop of Antioch who had to deal with an issue regarding the Gospel of Peter. The congregation in Rhossus requested permission to read this Gospel in the church. At first, Serapion granted permission, but changed his mind after reading the work himself and seeing the heretical content it contained. Hill draws four conclusions from Serapion’s reaction to this work. First, Serapion knew of a category of books that were “received by tradition”, and the Gospel of Peter was not among them. Second, Serapion knew there had been books falsely attributed to the apostles of Jesus. Third, Serapion placed a high value on apostolic authority, and fourth, Serapion believes that apostolic authority belongs to certain books, which either the apostles wrote or had apostolic approval to be passed down (Hill, p.89).

Chapter 5 looks at three different ways of packaging the Gospels: harmonies, synopses and codices, explaining that works such as these would have shared the same aim of aiding Christian teachers who needed easier access to the Scriptures. These were not intended to be a single replacement of the four-Gospel canon, but were written to aid Christian teachers and are actually an indication of the authority of the four as Scripture.

Chapter 6 deals with the work of Justin Martyr and examines Justin’s references to the ‘Memoirs of the Apostles’, which are books that Justin knows as ‘Gospels’. It is pointed out, however, that many have observed that in Justin’s quotations of Jesus that they often are not reflective of a single one of the fourfold Gospels but rather look more like a harmonized version. Hill writes, “while it is evident that Justin…sometimes blended together or harmonized Jesus’s words, his ultimate authoritative source was what lay at the back of them” (Hill, p. 131). Hill also notes that in one place, Justin says ‘For the apostles, in the memoirs which have come about by their agency, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us’ and in another place Justin writes that the Gospels were composed by ‘Jesus’s apostles and their followers.’ Both of these statements lead to the conclusion that the Gospels which Justin is referring to, contain “at least two written by apostles and at least two by followers of apostles” (Hill, p.132). Hill resolves from the hints left behind by Justin in his work that the evidence likely proves that Justin had knowledge of the fourfold set of canonical Gospels, and that he regarded only these for as Scripture.

Chapter 7 looks at how early opponents of a proto-orthodox Christianity viewed the gospels. Hill looks at sources from Trypho, The Emperor and Senate, Crescens, and Celcus who according to Hill, Justin recruited “from the ranks of unbelievers” (Hill, p. 152). It is shown how Celcus, for example “was responding directly to the challenges posed in the writings of Justin” in his treatise against Christianity, True Logos, which was written sometime between 160 and 180 (Hill, p. 155). Hill writes that although it is not known for sure if Celsus “knew a definite fourfold Gospel collection…his use of the four Gospels in his broadside against Christianity is apparent” (Hill, p. 156-157). Therefore, even Celsus, an outsider to Christianity, regarded the fourfold Gospel as authentic Christian writings.
Chapter 8 examines other early sources such as The Apocryphon of James, The Epistle of the Apostles, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and the writings of Marcion and Aristides. Hill argues that these early texts indicate the influence of the four-Gospel collection from both within and outside of the church (Hill, p. 182). In Chapter 9, Hill deals with the Epistle to Dognetus, the so-called Letter of Barnabas, writings of Polycarp and Ignatius, The Didache, and writings of Clement of Rome. In each of these cases, Hill notes that each one “knew of at least one of the four Gospels” (Hill, p. 203) Hill states that ultimately, the last word on the matter “is found…in the collective, public teaching of Jesus’ authorized apostles, who received this authority from Jesus to pass on to the church” (Hill, p. 206)

Chapter 10 focuses on Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis around A.D. 120. Hill shows that Papias “knew all four of our Gospels, for there are sound reasons for acknowledging his use of them in the fragments of his writings that have survived. This would make Papias the earliest first-hand source for a recognition of all for Gospels” (Hill, p. 222). Hill argues that Papias followed an earlier tradition and concludes that one cannot be sure how early this tradition goes, “but a reasonable assumption is that the information he derived from ‘the elder’ was learned sometime around the year 100 and in any case not many years thereafter” (Hill, pp.222-223).

The final chapter finally tackles the question posed in the title of the book: Who chose the Gospels? Hill writes, “In short, we have no evidence that the church ever sat down collectively or as individual churches and composed criteria for judging which Gospels (or other literature) it thought best suited its needs” (Hill, p. 231). Thus, the Scriptures proved themselves authoritative simply by being handed down from apostolic sources and by their unity in content and the message they delivered.
Hill did an excellent job of laying a solid foundation to help the reader understand various aspects of textual criticism. The information given about the papyrus discoveries, as well as the numbering system used to identify various papyri was helpful. It was also beneficial to see how the papyri discoveries do not support the claims that are being made by some scholars. The section that explains how Alexandria, which was an area where Gnostic Christianity was quite widespread, still had a higher ratio of discoveries supporting the popularity of the canonical fourfold Gospel collection was very supportive of his argument.

In Chapter 5, Hill builds on the information learned in the first chapter by explaining how the codex possibly became more popular than the scroll because of the ability to bind all four Gospels together. In this section it is explained how at some point in the second century, multiple Gospels started being bound together in a single codex. Hill states that while there have been several discoveries which show the four canonical Gospels bound together, there has yet to be a discovery where a non-canonical Gospel was bound together with one of the four Gospels (Hill, p. 116-117). While he does not say that only scriptural writings are bound in codex form, he does say that only the four canonical Gospels are found only in codex form, while some of the other Gospels were also found in scroll form. The explanation that the owners of these scrolls would not have viewed them as Scripture is helpful for his argument (Hill, pp. 27-28). The explanation of how writings considered authoritative as Scripture were mostly only found in the larger codices, which would have been suitable for public reading, as well as numbers cited from the writings of Clement were also helpful in establishing his case.

Throughout the book, church history and textual criticism are woven together in a captivating fashion. Hill does an exceptional job in attempting to defend Irenaus, who is not always easy to defend, and is not popular with many modern scholars. The manner in which Hill used the works of Irenaus’s contemporaries was most helpful in answering his thesis. Although the evidence presented in the first part of the book is very convincing and clear, in the second half, Hill’s arguments seem to become more abstract and speculative. One example of this is the section dealing with the work of Justin Martyr. Justin complicated matters by not specifically naming the Gospels to which he is referring as he writes, making Hill’s task more difficult and makes his arguments seem less cut and dry (Hill, p. 126). Although there is not as much evidence to work with, Hill does an admirable job in presenting his arguments and it was helpful for the reader to see how several historical figures from both inside and outside of the church viewed the Gospel collection.

Throughout the book, Hill tackles some very technical details. Although he is covering a vast array of historical details, he writes in such a way that the reader does not get bogged down. Hill’s style is engaging and easy to follow. Although the subject is academic in nature, this book could be easily accessible to a more popular audience with an interest in learning about how the New Testament canon came to be formed. The book is an excellent resource, and is worthwhile to recommend to anyone with a desire to dig deeper into the history of the church, the establishment of the canon or learn more about textual criticism in general.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Five Links and a Question

I decided to try these link posts last month. It's been a little over a month, and I have tried to get one up most days. I did really good hitting every day for a while until school started back. My question to you all is this -- is it helpful? Are you all reading them? There were a couple of times I realized I had pasted the link incorrectly, and in one case even forgot to link to the intended posts, and nobody noticed (nobody left a comment or let me know on Twitter the links were broken).

I used to set up Buffer to send these same sort of links out via Twitter, but I started 'buffering' quotes when I started doing this.

I just want to make sure I'm not shooting links to the choir. My friend and fellow SEBTS student Spence Spencer does a similar kind of post, and I've noticed we've often collected the same links. Tim Challies also has a daily post with the same sort of links, so my question to you all --  do you read them, and are they helpful? Have I come across enough links that you haven't seen already? I don't want to clog your RSS feed or Twitter with useless info.

I'm really just curious. Please let me know. If I get no comments on this post, I will take it as a "no we aren't reading these and they aren't helpful." As always, thanks for reading!

Now, here are my five links for today:

First here are two posts about the movie "American Sniper". One from Miles Mullin: American Sniper, Blue Bible and another from Evan Lenow: Jesus and the American Sniper. They are both worth checking out!

Here is a great post from Spence Spencer on social media and the Christian which was sparked by conversations between Spence and Sam Morris, who is the social media guy here at SEBTS.

Next is a great post from Nathan Finn (Professor of Church History at SEBTS) on the Baptist Student Union and the Vietnam War.

Finally, this post show that re-reading doesn't usually help us learn, and gives 8 tips that will help us better retain information and study smarter.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Five Links I Have Enjoyed -- Jan 26, 2015

First, please read Nathan Finn's thoughts on the movie "Selma". "If we appeal piously to the gospel without committing ourselves to the hard work of authentic cross-cultural friendships and open dialogs, policy debates, social justice ministries, intentional outreach, and repentance, prayer and service to those in need, then our gospel is a slogan that deflects rather than a truth that transforms. There is no gospel when there is no change. “Selma” reminds me of how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go—how far I still need to go."

This was an interesting post from NPR about Iraqi Monks who are working little by little to preserve Iraq's Christian history.

In this post, SEBTS Ethics professor Mark Liederbach explores the question: "Using your political imagination, what would an ideal polity look like from a Christian perspective?"

I was at the blog of my friend Spence Spencer yesterday looking for a book review he had done recently that I wanted to re-read, and I came across this post he had written this past November on writing papers in Seminary. I wanted to share it here again for my fellow students. Read it now, and think about it as you are planning your papers for this semester. And, you should be planning your papers now. Make some appointments at the Writing Center now. Spence has a few roles here at SEBTS, and one of those is that of grader of papers, so give his thoughts some serious consideration!

And finally, America's best-selling cars and trucks are built on lies: The rise of fake engine noise.